Saturday, March 17, 2012 Krill, and nests

Seward, Alaska Sporadic Bird Report


Today I drove out to Lowell Point Beach. I haven't been there for several days due to avalanche danger during our recent heavy snows. I found hundreds of dried up krill, a crustacean that looks like a tiny shrimp, washed up at the high tide line.  I was not sure if they were molts or freeze-dried, or how long they had been there, but they did not seem to attract any birds. This event usually happens in late winter/early spring; I have similar photos from April 16, 2008, almost exactly a month later. I thought it was interesting that their exoskeleton contains fluorides, which are toxic in high concentrations (according to Wikipedia.)  I wonder what the effect is on whales, fish, or birds that choose to feast on them, unpeeled?

Back home, I took advantage of Nature's snow bounty and placed a short ladder on top of the 5 feet of firm snow next to the house. A STELLER'S JAY nest from last summer that I meant to remove earlier was now in easy reach. I pulled it off the short roof ledge and discovered my resident red squirrel had converted the summer bird nest to its winter nest. A fluffy coverlet of goat fur bits (from my offering to birds), moss, shredded paper, and dried grass was heaped on top of the twig and grass Jay nest.

Much to my surprise, tucked far under the eave was a formidable collection of peanuts. I fetched my long-handled homemade "squirrel stash" rake and a bucket and started raking out about 3 gallons of peanuts mixed with a few large chunks of stale bread, corn on the cob, and a giant pretzel. I can't imagine the number of trips to the neighbor's bird feeder and back! I wondered if the squirrel did all of this, or if the Steller's Jay might have started it. I have only observed the jay stashing single peanuts in the ground, so I suspect this was the squirrel's work. On the other hand, there were NO spruce cones, the usual squirrel provision.

I measured the Steller's Jay nest and found the diameter of the almost perfectly circular bowl was 6" and the general loose structure surrounding it about a foot across. Though it was hard to see in the dim crevice, I believe there were 4 babies squeezed into this nest last summer and all fledged. It will be interesting to see if the parents build here again in known squirrel territory this summer.

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

No comments:

Post a Comment